Indonesian hunger for 'cheap and tasty' noodles buoys wheat prices

Wed Jul 17, 2013 4:59pm EDT
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* Indonesians increasingly turning to cheaper wheat-based foods

* Shun more expensive rice dishes as inflation rises, fuel costs soar

* Rivalling Brazil as world's No.2 wheat importer

* Australian wheat suppliers set to benefit from Indonesia demand

By Michael Taylor and Nadhila Renaldi

JAKARTA, July 18 (Reuters) - After a hard morning poring over his books, Indonesian student Mohammed Rezky Utama refuels with a steaming bowl of noodles, shunning the more expensive rice dishes that were once his staple diet.

Like many of his compatriots, his appetite for cheaper wheat-based foods has rocketed as he looks to save money to cope with rising inflation, pushing Indonesia close to displacing Brazil as the world's No.2 importer of the grain.

"They are cheap, tasty, and we don't need side dishes," 20-year-old Utama said of noodles, often served in chili-infused broths by the tens of thousands of vendors who cram the pavements of Indonesia, home to more than 240 million people.

This uptick in demand from poorer consumers, in a country where around half the population lives on less than $2 per day, comes on top of a creeping westernisation of diets as people develop a taste for snacks that also rely on wheat flour, such as burgers and doughnuts.   Continued...